THE FLESH OF A SWAN

Chapter 9

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Shen Wenjun dropped by the police station. Since Xie Han was sleeping at the time, Shen Wenjun left the coats with one of Xie Han's colleagues and asked to have them passed along to Xie Han.

It was only after he woke up that Xie Han discovered Shen Wenjun had brought something for him. He was still half-asleep at first, so it wasn't until after he'd unpacked his coats that he realized—

Wait. Had Shen Wenjun gone through his closet?

Xie Han hurriedly checked the coats Shen Wenjun had brought him. The coat he'd used to stash the ring box wasn't there. That one had been hung up at the back of the closet, so Shen Wenjun wouldn't necessarily have found anything…

If Shen Wenjun found the ring, he should have said something, right?

But Xie Han wouldn't have time to go home for a while.

Xie Han wanted to ask. He took out his phone and wrote out a text to Shen Wenjun, but he somehow couldn't bring himself to hit send.

A colleague called for him. Xie Han shelved his worries for the time being and got back to work.

Investigating a case was often a difficult, long, and complex yet tedious thing.

It wasn't as easy and simple as some dramas and movies made it seem.

Three more days passed before Xie Han finally found time to head home for a night.

While home, he checked his closet. He stooped down and studied the dust residue at the base of the closet and on the closet rod.

He took out the heavy overcoat that had been hanging at the very back of his closet. When he studied it… mm, the hangar had been changed.

Xie Han reached into the pocket and took out the ring box. He opened the box and looked inside.

Still there.

So had Shen Wenjun found the ring box? Or not? Had he opened it? Or not?

Shen Wenjun hadn't said anything about it over the past few days.

No, this wasn't going to work. Xie Han hadn't slept well in ages. His head was aching so badly that it felt like his skull was about to split open.

He couldn't think straight.

He put the ring into a drawer, took a quick shower, and went to bed.

His body was so heavy with fatigue that he fell asleep as soon as his head hit the pillow.

 

Xie Han dreamt of their high school days.

He dreamt of the day they received their secondary sex identification letters.

He opened his envelope.

The results—

Beta.

Xie Han hadn't been surprised. The pheromone secretion glands of many of his classmates had already started to mature. Plenty of students had already been able to tell that they were alphas before their official identification letters were issued.

But Xie Han had never been able to detect pheromones the way his classmates could.

So he figured he was probably a beta, and as expected—he was. He felt just a little bit of disappointment at that. His good friends were all alphas, and he was a beta…

Long ago, alphas had been natural rulers while betas were seen as commoners. Even in modern society, there were some persisting stereotypes and presumptions based on secondary sex that were difficult to avoid.

Xie Han turned and saw that his deskmate Shen Wenjun was staring at his own identification letter with an extremely sour look on his face.

Xie Han's heart thumped heavily in his chest.

Shen Wenjun wasn't trying to hide his results. Xie Han only had to glance down to see the word 'omega' printed on Shen Wenjun's letter.

Huh? Omega?

A male omega?!

Xie Han froze in place. Although he'd always known that Shen Wenjun's mother was an omega, he also knew that all of Shen Wenjun's older brothers were alphas. He'd figured Shen Wenjun would undoubtedly present as an alpha as well.

He thought back to biology class and recalled that the probability of a male alpha and a female omega conceiving a male omega was extremely low…

At that moment, their classmates swarmed over. One asked, "Shen Wenjun, what's your secondary sex? Your expression is so unpleasant. It can't be that you're an omega, right?"

Shen Wenjun covered up his identification letter, but then shamelessly stated, "That's right. I'm an omega. What of it?"

The boys clustered around them refused to believe him at first. They kicked up a fuss over nothing. After discovering Shen Wenjun had told the truth, they couldn't help but feel awkward and embarrassed.

Two-thirds of their classmates had presented as alphas.

Half of them immediately started to pursue Shen Wenjun, either by confessing to his face or by writing him a love letter. All of them were summarily shot down.

Many of the classmates Shen Wenjun had previously gotten along well with could no longer even be considered his friends after his status as an omega came to light. Shen Wenjun, who'd always been somewhat gloomy, became even more ill-tempered.

It was then that Xie Han started to be glad for his own status as a beta. Shen Wenjun didn't need to be afraid of him, and could allow him into his life without fear.

Xie Han recalled a very ordinary event.

One afternoon, after school, they'd been walking down a small road on their way home. Shen Wenjun had complained, "Tell me, why are alphas so disgusting? Are their heads filled with nothing but sex? They tell me they get aroused as soon as they smell my pheromones, and they outright ask me to have sex with them. They even assume I'll accept. What do they take me for?"

Xie Han had absently hummed his agreement.

But immense guilt had suddenly exploded in his heart.

Alphas could use their pheromones as an excuse for their beastly natures. But what about Xie Han?

He was a beta who couldn't detect pheromones.

He couldn't smell Shen Wenjun's pheromones at all.

So why would he blush, why would his heart race, with just one word or look or touch from Shen Wenjun? When he laid eyes upon Shen Wenjun in heat, his mind also filled up with lustful and downright filthy thoughts.

It started as something that would happen once in a while.

Then frequently.

Then daily.

Some alphas said male omegas were no different from women.

But Xie Han couldn't perceive Shen Wenjun's enticing pheromones. To him, Shen Wenjun was just a normal boy. A very fit and able-bodied boy at that.

So how could he harbor such thoughts for his male childhood friend?

 

Xie Han also dreamt of their first time.

It had been at Shen Wenjun's house, while his parents weren't home. They'd been able to engage in those juvenile acts in complete secrecy. To this day, Shen Wenjun's parents didn't know about the more intimate side of their relationship.

Shen Wenjun's face had gone thoroughly red during the act. He'd closed his eyes, refusing to look at Xie Han.

Xie Han had done his research in advance, but when the time came to put what he'd learned into practice, he was still nervous about doing a bad job and hurting Shen Wenjun. He would never have another chance if he fell short now.

His heart had raced like it was prepared to burst out of his chest. Although he tried to hold in his nerves, his fingertips still trembled.

Shen Wenjun had trembled as well.

Xie Han had used those trembling hands of his to stroke Shen Wenjun's calves and knees. He stopped there and crooked his fingers, knocking lightly as though seeking entrance at a forbidden door. His voice was hot and hoarse as he rasped, "…open up a little."

Legend had it ancient civilizations had once sacrificed pure and beautiful omegas to appease the gods.

Then… with his actions, was Xie Han savoring and defiling the holy body placed upon the altar?

 

Xie Han woke abruptly. The alarm he'd set for himself was going off.

He was only wearing a pair of pants. His upper body was bare, and he'd woken up with sweat staining every inch of his skin.

It was already morning.

The sun was just starting to rise.

He got dressed carefully, tiptoeing around so as not to wake Shen Wenjun. But just as he slipped out through the living room to rummage through the fridge for food, he saw Shen Wenjun shuffle over in a pair of pajamas.

Shen Wenjun looked like he hadn't been sleeping well. He had dark bags under his eyes, and his complexion wasn't very good. He wore an expression that seemed to imply he had something to say, and yet he didn't say anything.

Based almost solely on intuition, Xie Han guessed that this was because of the ring box. Shen Wenjun was unhappy about the ring. But Xie Han could rule out the possibility that Shen Wenjun was unhappy about Xie Han's intent to propose. Judging by Shen Wenjun's obliviousness, he couldn't have been able to guess Xie Han's true intentions.

Shen Wenjun continued to waver. The questions he wanted to ask remained lodged in his throat.

He'd done a lot of thinking over the past few days. Why hadn't Xie Han told him about the ring? Were his jealousy and his desire to monopolize Xie Han too obvious? But they were just friends, not lovers. What right did Shen Wenjun have to stick his nose into Xie Han's relationships?

Besides.

Xie han still had the ring. That had to mean the proposal hadn't been successful, right?

That thought brought Shen Wenjun some relief, but it brought some anxiety as well. Could Xie Han have been waiting for his proposal to be accepted before telling Shen Wenjun?

There was no law stating Xie Han had to tell Shen Wenjun about every detail of his personal life.

So why was Shen Wenjun so upset?

He'd decided to wait and see. He wanted to see exactly when Xie Han would come clean.

Shen Wenjun took bread, eggs, and bacon out from the fridge and said, "I'll cook. You take a seat. How's the case going?"

Xie Han remained frozen in place for a second. Then he said, "We've caught a big suspect. I think it's almost definitely him."

He told Shen Wenjun about the case, which wasn't actually all that complicated.

Shen Wenjun had gone to the crime scene. He knew the victim was a high school student, a female omega. There were presently two suspects. One beta, one alpha. The beta was her ex-boyfriend, from before she presented as an omega. And the alpha was her current sweetheart.

According to Xie Han's assessment of the facts, the victim couldn't resist her base instincts to be with an alpha after presenting as an omega. She rejected the beta who had been courting her, and was killed as a result.

"It could have been the alpha, right?" Shen Wenjun asked. "Maybe the girl was determined to stay with the beta, so he lost control and killed her."

"I think the beta is the more likely suspect," Xie Han said. "If you'd met him, you would probably feel the same way."

Xie Han had been sure of his conclusion since he first laid eyes on that beta. He could understand that boy far too well.

He'd been in that boy's shoes before.

As he watched Shen Wenjun fry up a few eggs for him, Xie Han thought to himself that he wasn't anywhere near as righteous and upstanding as Shen Wenjun thought he was.

There was darkness hidden within his nature as well.

Back when Shen Wenjun's heats had started to become more and more frequent, Xie Han had struggled to control his mounting anxiety and jealousy. He couldn't accept the idea of Shen Wenjun being with anyone else, be they male or female, alpha or beta.

Alphas, with their ability to exude pheromones, naturally had the upper hand when it came to enticing Shen Wenjun.

Xie Han had actually fanned the flames of Shen Wenjun's aversion towards alphas.

And he'd gotten a vasectomy.

He hadn't been born infertile.

Shen Wenjun plated the toast, eggs, and bacon. He brought two servings over to the table and took a seat, preparing to dig in.

Almost offhandedly, Xie Han asked, "Did you find the ring box in my coat pocket?"

Shen Wenjun tensed. He'd actually imagined the circumstances under which Xie Han might confess to him before, but when that moment actually came to pass, he still froze up.

He could only squeeze out a terse hum. "Hm?"

After he came back to his senses, Shen Wenjun continued in a strained voice, "You only remembered to tell me about it after I found it, huh? When did you get a girlfriend? You didn't even give me a heads up."

He paused, then added, "It's not good for you to do that sort of thing with me when you already have a girlfriend, is it."

Xie Han calmly stated, "I don't have a girlfriend. I planned to propose to you on your birthday. I prepared the ring for that."

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